A random college documentary on a golgappa seller inspired three college students to start a unique organisation, The Education Tree (TET), with a focus on alternative education. Smriti Singhal, one of the founders of TET says, “When Kunal Arora (co-founder) and I were in college, we were working on a documentary about a golgappa seller. He had a son who could not go to school because they could not afford to buy books.”
Something about the man’s story resonated with the two students who started an initiative called Project Emerge after they graduated. “As part of the project, we distributed free books and stationery to school students besides conducting career counselling sessions for them in association with NGOs,” she adds. This later metamorphosed into a full-fledged organisation, The Education Tree.
Another reason behind the formation of TET, as Karan Katyal, a co-founder, points out, is the need to break certain conventions about higher education. “My mother’s family is full of engineers while my father is from a family of chartered accountants. The pressure on me to take up CA was rather high; I did take it up briefly but gave up because it was not my calling. I know thousands of students who must be going through something similar, or worse. Through TET we want show people that there is a whole unexplored new world of possibilities,” he says.
Katyal is now involved with TET full-time and he doesn’t plan to pursue CA in the near future. The organisation creates awareness on a number of issues affecting society -- from rape to child labour. After the gruesome rape in the Capital on December 16 2012, TET joined the protests, conducted freeze mobs and launched a project called ‘Jo Mera Hai Wo Mera Hai’ (My Body, My Rights). Singhal says, “We believe that the most important education which needs to be imparted is respect for women and their safety. We also recently celebrated the strength of womanhood through our new project, ‘Being A Woman’. We have also collaborated with Milind Deora, former minister of state with the ministry of information technology and communications, as part of his initiative called Uth Speak, Project Badlaav which focuses on changing the mindsets of people and gender sensitisation.
As part of the group’s initiative, Aaghaaz, they conduct street plays on a range of issues such as women’s safety, politics, democracy, human trafficking, senior citizens, etc in public spaces, schools and parks. Singhal says, “We use unique art forms such as freeze mobs, flash mobs, graffiti, chalk art, street dance, street plays, etc to create awareness and sensitivity. We have organised more than 1000 freeze mobs, flash mobs, etc in various schools, colleges and public places. We also design and organise workshops on theatre, personality development, corporate training, etc in order to polish the skills of students and prepare them to take on challenging roles.” They partner with DU societies to conduct these workshops.